'Prodigal Son's Winter Premiere Answered a Major Question About That Camping Trip (RECAP)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Episode 11 of Prodigal Son, "Alone Time."]
And survive is exactly what Malcolm does as John Watkins' (Michael Raymond-James) captive. "No one can hear you scream out here," the Junkyard Killer promises him as he keeps him chained up in a room ... somewhere.
But where is he? Well, the prevalent theory for Gil (Lou Diamond Phillips), Martin (Michael Sheen), Dani (Aurora Perrineau), JT (Frank Harts), and even Malcolm himself is that he's in the cabin from that infamous camping trip. (Watkins' grandmother informs them — via song — that Malcolm's probably dead.)
Is he? Did Watkins bring him back to where it all began? No. And yes.
The Conversation That's Been a Long Time Coming
Malcolm's kidnapping leads to Gil visiting Martin in Claremont and trying to get answers out of him about Watkins without informing him what's happened to his son. ("I still owe you that cup of tea," Martin remarks, speaking of the drink he'd planned on using to drug and kill Gil all those years ago. "I switched to coffee," Gil replies, causing Martin to burst out laughing.) That doesn't last long, and to Gil's surprise, Martin has quite the violent reaction — he needs to be medicated! — upon hearing Watkins has his son. "If John has him, he's dead," Martin insists.
As for why he's so sure of this, well, that's because he knows what happened on that camping trip. And while Malcolm remains focused on the girl in the box, John informs his prisoner that he needs to let that go. Instead, he should focus on trying to survive the trials he's about to endure, trials that made John a man.
Their conversations focus on the past, with Malcolm noting that John's grandparents drilling hate into him and locking him in the closet and making his childhood all around awful don't make him "original." "Really, you're Chapter 1 in the first profiling book they give new recruits at Quantico," the former FBI agent informs the Junkyard Killer.
But John doesn't think that Malcolm even knows who he is, and after informing him that Martin did kill that girl, he drops a big surprise on him: she doesn't matter because this is about Malcolm and John — and the scar on John's side. Cue a flashback to young Malcolm stabbing him. "You stabbed me and left me for dead," John reminds him. "I lived. Will you?" With that, John returns the favor and leaves Malcolm to bleed on the floor of his cell.
That's Nothing Compared to the Next Bombshell
Why did Malcolm stab John back then? As he begins to remember more, he thinks that he was trying to save the girl, but John corrects him: it was self-defense. John was trying to kill Malcolm — because Martin lost his nerve to kill his own son!
Yes, Martin was going to kill Malcolm because he was beginning to remember things. That was the point of the camping trip. John was going to do it for him, "until you became your father's son," he informs Malcolm.
Bright insists he's not his father, but John knows they have the same strengths and weakness — their family. John's going to kill Malcolm's family because it turns out the two are not in the cabin, but where it all began: under the Whitly house. With that revelation, John heads upstairs.
Meanwhile, Gil has Jessica looking through the photo albums from John's house in hopes that she recognizes someone or something. Once Ainsley (Halston Sage) learns what happened, she joins her mother — and comes to a chilling realization.
When she was young, before Martin's arrest, she had a supposedly imaginary friend, Mr. Boots, who gave her an angel figurine that Jessica was so sure came from her father. But that figurine matches ones from the photo albums. John was Mr. Boots. Ainsley thought he was a ghost because when she followed him down to Martin's hobby room, he turned a corner and disappeared.
They have just enough time to get a head start on running from him before he comes out of that secret passageway in the basement. And so begins a chase scene that results in Ainsley bleeding from a head wound and John pulling a Shining by trying to chop his way through a door with an axe to get to them.
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But what about Bright? A hallucination of Martin informs him that there's a "blunt procedure" that will allow him to escape his chains. "The diameter of the restraint is three inches. The width of your hand is five inches," he says. "So all you have to do is make your hand three inches. That's just math." There just so happens to be a sledgehammer right there ...
After he slams it down on his hand, he's able to free himself and follow John into his house. "This is my house!" Malcolm screams for John just as he's found Jessica and Ainsley. "My family!" And Jessica, who has refused to back down, has complete faith in her son. "Do you hear that?" she asks the Junkyard Killer. "That is my son, and he is coming for you."
That's exactly what he does, distracting John with an open trunk that causes flashbacks to his childhood and the closet. That's when Malcolm strikes, hitting him from behind with the crowbar he took from John's bag in his cell. "This is my house," he repeats.
He uses that crowbar to keep the trunk closed, and while he didn't kill John, "he'll never be able to hurt us again," Malcolm promises his mother as the family reunites. But is Malcolm okay? He doesn't answer that question other than to say he's "alive."
And how can he be okay after that? He learned his father planned to kill him. "Malcolm's interactions with Martin are forever changed by what he learns from the Junkyard Killer," Payne told TV Insider. Anyone else looking forward to the first time Malcolm visits Martin after this and what we see from both actors in that scene?
"This is going to change him inextricably and it's going to be a challenge and something he has to deal with," cocreator Chris Fedak teased. How will Malcolm deal with everything he was told and remembered in that cell? We can't wait to find out.
Prodigal Son, Mondays, 9/8c, Fox